The U.S. Senate is preparing to vote on cybersecurity legislation that proponents say is sorely needed to better help companies and the government share information about the latest Internet threats. Critics of the bill and its many proposed amendments charge that it will do little, if anything, to address the very real problem of flawed cybersecurity while creating conditions that are ripe for privacy abuses. What follows is a breakdown of the arguments on both sides, and a personal analysis that seeks to add some important context to the debate.
TalkTalk, a British phone and broadband provider with more than four million customers, disclosed Friday that intruders had hacked its Web site and may have stolen personal and financial data. Sources close to the investigation say the company has received a ransom demand of approximately £80,000 (~USD $122,000), with the attackers threatening to publish the TalkTalk’s customer data unless they are paid the amount in Bitcoin.
This author has long sought to shame Web hosting and Internet service providers who fail to take the necessary steps to keep spammers, scammers and other online ne’er-do-wells off their networks. Typically, the companies on the receiving end of this criticism are little-known Internet firms. But according to anti-spam activists the title of the Internet’s most spam-friendly provider recently has passed to networks managed by IBM — one of the more recognizable and trusted names in technology and security.
Adobe has issued a patch to fix a zero-day vulnerability in its Flash Player software. Separately, Oracle today released an update to plug more than two-dozen flaws in its Java software. Both programs plug directly into the browser and are highly targeted by malicious software and malefactors. Although Flash and Java are both widely installed, most users could probably ditch each program with little to no inconvenience or regret.
In July I wrote about the dangers of blindly trusting online reviews, especially for high-dollar services like moving companies. That piece told the story of Full Service Van Lines, a moving company that had mostly five-star reviews online but whose owners and operators had a long history of losing or destroying their customers’ stuff and generally taking months to actually ship the damaged goods it delivered. Last week, federal regulators shut the company down.
Adobe and Microsoft on Tuesday each released security updates to remedy critical vulnerabilities in their software. Adobe pushed patches to plug at least 56 security holes present in Adobe Reader and Acrobat, as well as a fix for Flash Player that corrects 13 flaws. Separately, Microsoft issued six update bundles to address at least 33 security problems in various versions of Windows, Microsoft Office and other software.
A Ukrainian hacker who once hatched a plot to have heroin sent to my Virginia home and then alert police when the drugs arrived had his first appearance in a U.S. court today, after being extradited to the United States to face multiple cybercrime charges.
The Washington Post reported last week that the Chinese government has quietly arrested a handful of hackers at the urging of the U.S. government, a move described as “an unprecedented step to defuse tensions with Washington at a time when the Obama administration has threatened economic sanctions.” While this a welcome and encouraging development, this is not the first time Beijing has arrested Chinese hackers in response to pressure from the U.S. government.
Another charity store chain has been hacked: America’s Thrift Stores, an organization that operates donations-based thrift stores throughout the southeast United States, said this week that it recently learned it was the victim of a malware-driven security breach that targeted software used by a third-party service provider.
T-Mobile disclosed last week that some 15 million customers had their Social Security numbers and other personal data stolen thanks to a breach at Experian, the largest of the big American consumer credit bureaus. But this actually wasn’t the first time that a hacking incident at Experian exposed sensitive T-Mobile customer data, and that previous breach may hold important clues about what went wrong more recently.